Death Parade analysis: the bar game to reveal soul destiny
The Last Judgement inside the Quindecim bar
Imagine finding yourself face to face with a bartender in a modern European bar. You don’t know how you came there: the only thing you’re informed about is you’re going to take part into a game whose outcome defines your destiny: death or life. Yesss! We’re talking about Death Parade, the 2015 animated series which restores the value of Life in the moment is finishes: you’ll experience The Day of the Lord in a great mix of deep, ironical and touching moments.
We can start with the review! Death parade analysis!
Death Parade plot: the setting.
The 12-episodes long series takes place inside the Quindecim bar, a greek-roman stylish bar where its guests are judged by the bartender. The mentioned guests are newcomers in the Quindecim and they don’t remember anything about how or why they came to such a location. They’ll will soon get informed that they’re supposed to participate into a survival game. Through the game (such as darts, biliards, videogame challenges) the guests regain their memories and at the end of each episode they realize they’re already dead. It’s in that very moment, when the peak stress is reached that the bartender makes his judgement: one soul is rewarded with Reincarnation while the other is condemned to the Eternal Void.
Each episode depicts a self-concluding story, but in the whole series the mistery around the female character of Chiyuki is fed and becomes resolved only at the end.
Decim: the bartender of the Souls.
Decim is, together with Chiyuki, the main protagonist of Death Parade. His role is far beyond the one of bartender: he has the responsibility to judge the guests of his bar. He also has the power to force, to deceive the game in order to create psychologically unbearable situations: only the souls who pass the test are worth of reincarnation, the other deserve nothing but the meaningless void. Arbiters are described as robot, emotionless puppies whose unique duty is to perform the judgement. Here, the real difference with Decim arises: his will is to become a better arbiter day by day and to do so he needs to come closer to the human nature. In order to spot the evil, the rational approach is not enough: in episode 1 “Death Seven Darts“, Machiko claims she only married Takashi for his money, but the audience will never get aware if that was the true or the choice of Machiko to forgive him sacrificing her life. In fact, Decim, keeping in mind that event, he continues repeating:
I do not think humans are foolish. I have respect for people who live fulfilled lives.
Only at the end of the series, when Decim submits Chiyuki to the judgment test, he becomes fully engaged with the girl. The system of judgment has to be rivisited since life acquires value because of death. It’s that the final conclusion of “Memento Mori“: the the narrowness of human condition is determined by the finitess of life. That’s why “it is worthed to being alive“. At the same time, Decim realizes his role of arbiter has to fullfil also a formative goal: making his guests remind the uniqueness of living even having clear in mind that:
Life is never fair. I’m sure you’re well aware of that.
A (Death) Parade of Names: Metaphors and Meaning of the Arbiters.
It can’t be helped: most of the characters in Death Parade possess a speaking name, a name which reveals their function and also their responsability.
Death Parade characters: list.
We have already talked about Decim. His name comes from the Roman mythology Decima (literally the tenth) whose alternative name is Lachesis who is in charge of measuring the thread of life. In order words, such as Decim, that divinity decides how much life was to be allowed to each human. But we’ll see that Decim is not the only representation of the three Fates.
The second Fates (we remember that in Roman-Greek mythology “the Fates” were the white-robed incarnations of destiny) is Nona (the ninth) also referred as Clotho. She has more authority over the other Gods: the power she has, enables her not only to choose who was born, but also to decide when gods or mortals were to be saved or put to death. In Death Parade, Nona is a very smart character who oversees the situation on the whole. She is aware that the judging system is not perfect and that
I think it’s best for there to be more than just one way to judge.
The third Fate (or Parcae) is represented by Castra which is referred to as Morta in Roman mythology. In few words: the queen of Death.
Clavis and Oculus.
Clavis literally means “key” and therefore, we find him managing the elevator and sending the guest to their appropriate floor. Remember Quindecim=15 th (floor), Viginti=20th (floor) and Nona=90 th (floor). Oculus whose name comes from “eye” has the ability to read and erase the memory of other arbiters and probably his name comes from the Odyssey.
The philosophy of Death Parade.
Face to face with Death: the right process to judge?
The guests are supposed to undergo very stressful situation that bring them in most cases to the psychological break down. When the limit is exceeded, dishuman behaviour takes over. It’s a very cinical method based on the primitive feelings of humans, as suggested by Nona.
Do you know what the most primitive emotion people have is? It’s fear.
According to this process the darkness inside human souls does not only emerges but it is also sustained and inserted into the guests due to their precarious condition.
The meaning of Death Parade.
The salvation opportunity as the statement of free will.
You may ask yourself why in the after-death world arbiters need to submit a test to decide the destiny of the soul. Can’t they evaluate the action made by humans when they were alive? No.
The implicit concept the anime wants to convey is the centrality of human position. Till the very end, a human being has the choice within its reach. It’s in other terms, the claim of human’s free will. Since life is unfair itself, everyone can save itself as a human being. This concept is applied by the Eastern view of Reincarnation but also Christianity admits redeption and forgiveness. This belief constitutes the inner core of the story: the Arbiters should pursue the salvation of their guest through the judgment process. Be aware! We’re not saying that the actions the dead people made when alive did not have value. In fact, people are judged pair by pair just because each action determines responsibility towards the others. This constitues the reason why Chiyuki cannot accept the proposal of Decim to return to life in exchange of another human life: despite the regrets and the mistakes she may appreciate the life she conducted and cannot bereave another person of living because of her lacks.
Not only Parade: the Death Note reference.
Light Yagami in Death Parade: episode 11.
The device Decim approaches her is the equal translation of the Death Note. A device that can kill at distance. Madhouse is the producer of also Death Note (here the review). That’s why in episode 11 Light Yagami makes his apparition into the show. As told by Castra, the number of deaths rised up in very short time and it is very likely that the cause was the Death Note utilization by Kira (Light). The design character of Castra, with the Red Shinigami eyes also reminds to the style adopted in Death Note. In that circumstances, Mayu who first appears in episode 6 decide to sacrifice the souls of the stranger (who we suppose to be Light Yagami) in order to save Harada. We’ll soon get acknowledged that both the teenagers are destined to the void.
Concluding Remarks: Death Parade OST and empathy.
On the technical level, nothing bad can be said about Death Parade. Madhouse has done a great job in terms of visual drawings but also better talking about music and OST. Just think about the Opening (Death Parade), the awesome Memento Mori and the great Monlit Night. They represent the best moments this anime may inspire. Each episode is soaked into a philosophical atmosphere, as the Quindecim becomes a Café philosophique. Depression and suicide, mother-child relation, plastic surgery, revenge and loyalty are some of the topic which are explored inside the bar. The morality contents and the immediate, seamless empathy that establishes between the characters and the audience are the secret for Death Parade to be a true pearl of animation.
I say… that people do not live just so that they can someday die. It is because they are alive that they someday die. There is no point to living. The same goes for judgment. Judgment must be performed hand in hand with both life and death. It is something that must be performed hand in hand with humans.
Remember to see the special 25-min long OVA “Death Billiards” which for sure deserves a watch!
Do you like this review? Write your opinion in the comments!